Chapter 85

Sorry about the translation slow-down again. I suddenly got called into a casual job with only 2 days notice, which I’ll be working until Christmas. I don’t spend that long each day on it but it forces me to wake up before 4AM meaning that I’m tired for the rest of the day which in turn makes it rather difficult for the right words to come to me when translating. I have trouble falling asleep early, you see.

That’s more or less what’s causing the slow-down – actually slow translating.


The next day, Fii went looking for York.

She wanted to discuss her upcoming match against Luca with him.
Spotting him in the distance, she rushed over. He turned to face her.

“Captain! Good morning!”

“Heath? You’re lively as usual.”

“Yes!”

Although she called out to him, he seemed to have been heading somewhere, so she asked if he was busy.

“It’s fine,” he replied.

And so, Fii promptly explained the situation to him.

“Hmm…”

York took a moment to think.

“Your build does disadvantage you in a straight fight. I’ve heard about Luca as well. It’s said that he’s quite a talented youth.”

It was difficult enough for Fii to draw with the people in her dorm. Dealing with the boy that even her dorm members were afraid of would be even harder.
Having said that, it wasn’t impossible.
Far from it, Fii was aiming to win.

With that in mind, it was natural to talk to her much respected Captain.

“Is there any way I can beat him?”

She was hoping that he knew of some way she could compensate for her inferior power and skill.

“Hmm, ability is everything in a match. Not only are you unsuited for swordsmanship competitions, you lack the experience and technique necessary to match him. This will be difficult.”

“Yes…”

So even the Captain thought it was tough.
Not that Fii was surprised. Perhaps hoping for a victory when she was inferior in all departments was asking for a bit much.

“You still have a chance though.”

“A chance?”

York nodded.

“Just one will do. Observe your opponent carefully, and find a weakness. Just one will do. Then build a strategy focused entirely on attacking it with everything you have.

“It would be asking for too much to expect an assured victory in your position. Still, aiming for a victory with even a 10% chance of success will be invaluable to your team mates.”

Thinking about it, both Gorms and Doug had been banking on just one out of their three bagging a victory.
Just one victory between her, Remié, and Slad.
In that case, Fii felt what she needed to do was simply increase her chance of victory as much as possible.
It wasn’t important to secure a victory. Simply increasing the odds would do.

Fii settled on a plan.

“Remember your match in the entry examinations. That was an example of somebody weaker grasping at victory against somebody stronger. Keep in mind though that even that will require ability.”

She thought back to her first match with Gorms.
Even though it had been the perfect chance to turn the tables, her body had failed her.

Fii suddenly noticed that York was smiling.

“I know how hard you have been working to gain that ability. I will also be watching the matches. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Y-…Yes!” she nodded happily.

Captain York acknowledged her efforts. Every day, Fii had been training hard to improve her endurance. She was even starting to be able to follow the normal training routine a little.
Each month the Captain would ask about it, and apparently he had been receiving reports from Crow-san as well.

Fii felt a little fidgety for some reason.

“Then I’ll go scout them out now!”

“Yeah, you do that.”

With that, Fii happily bounded off towards the Eastern Dormitory. It was time to scout the enemy.

*

And that was how Fii found herself observing the Eastern Dormitory training grounds.

“Oi, what the heck is…”

“One of the guys from the Northern Dorm? Why is he here…?”

On a thick branch, high up in the trees, stood Fii. She was incredibly conspicuous.
As for why she was in a tree, it was because she couldn’t see very well from the ground.
She was short, after all…

“Pay it no mind. He’s probably here to scout us out,” said Rizil to Kerio.

The two of them were currently in a match.

“Scouting…!?” Kerio exclaimed. “Shouldn’t we stop him…?”

Taking advantage of Kerio’s distraction, Rizil sent his sword flying.

“It’s fine. Just the floundering of the weak,” he smiled.

Although Kerio had been left out of the top 5 while Doug was here, he was still an incredibly skilled fighter in his own right. He was absolutely confident he could take down any average apprentice.
Still, even Kerio merited nothing more than a smile of confidence from Rizil.

The difference in their ability was obvious.

At any rate, none of the other five paid Fii any mind either.
Thus, Fii continued to watch on without censure.
Just as the Northern Dormitory often did, the boys of the Eastern Dormitory were sparring.
Unlike the Northern Dormitory however, there were a number of judges carefully enforcing match rules. There was even a clock there to keep track of how long the matches lasted.
Clearly a lot of effort was put into this.

Fii had been staring at Luca.

(He’s strong…)

she thought frankly.

Boys who weren’t chosen for the team were fighting him one after another.
His current opponent had tried to strike from above, but Luca parried it easily before bringing his sword across for his own attack.
The match was ended with a clean blow to the abdomen.

A perfect grasp of orthodox swordplay.
Speed, power, technique – he had it all in spades. A balanced fighter with no real weak points.
A talented, orthodox fencer.

Having said that, his orthodoxy showed no real disadvantage against more eclectic fighters, and he capitalised on his opponents idiosyncrasies to cleanly overwhelm them.

Doug’s attacks were explosive and powerful, while Gorms fought with brute strength. While Luca lacked any advantages like this, it also meant he lacked any real weaknesses.
Fii just couldn’t think of anything that she could take advantage of. It just didn’t look like he had anything like that.

And even though Fii had been watching him the whole time, Luca showed no signs of bother, simply continuing his matches with an even expression.
He was awfully confident, but Fii was painfully aware that he had all the reason to be. Well, Doug was still stronger though.

Still, Fii continued to watch him intently.

A new opponent had stepped up, and they were now exchanging blows. Luca’s overhead strike had just been barely parried, so he smiled confidently and leant forward to whisper.

“My, that was a nice block. But… you still have a ways to go.”

Swinging his sword out from behind, his opponent had his sword flung into the air without a chance to react.


<Previous Chapter | Index | Next Chapter>

Chapter 84

Sorry about the translation slow-down again. I suddenly got called into a casual job with only 2 days notice, which I’ll be working until Christmas. I don’t spend that long each day on it but it forces me to wake up before 4AM meaning that I’m tired for the rest of the day which in turn makes it rather difficult for the right words to come to me when translating. I have trouble falling asleep early, you see.

That’s more or less what’s causing the slow-down – actually slow translating.


With the line-up decided, the boys moved onto the next issue.

It was time to discuss their order.

“Those guys have kindly told us the order they’re fighting in,” said Gorms as he held out a piece of paper.

Vanguard – Luca
Second – Jerid
Main – Kerio
Vice – Rizil
General – Percil

“Ahaha… They’re completely looking down on us…” Remié said with drooped shoulders.

“After seeing this I just want to show them what we’re made of.”

Slad folded his arms angrily instead.

For once, Fii really seemed to be thinking.

“Hmm,” she hummed, “Ideally Gorms and Doug would both win their matches, leaving the last victory up to us three…”

To be frank, that was their only real chance at victory.

Out of their remaining members, Fii had a record of 2 wins, 10 losses, and 33 draws; Remié sat at 22 wins, 18 losses, and 5 draws; while Slad had 23 wins, 21 losses, and 1 draw.

Even leaving aside Draw Maker Fii, their ability in combat wasn’t the greatest.

“Doug,” she asked. “Do you know how strong the enemy members are?”

He had come from the Eastern Dormitory, after all.

Doug nodded in reply.

“Percil is strong. Rizil and Luca are about the same. Perhaps Rizil is just the slightest bit stronger. Kerio was the substitute before I left, so Kerio might be the easiest to beat.”

In other words, the enemy team was set-up rather offensively.

“Kerio is still one of the champions of the entry exams though. And I’ve seen him take the top prize in competitions where the others didn’t compete,” mumbled Remié.

Indeed. Although Doug’s presence had forced him off the roster, that really wasn’t saying much. Kerio’s skill was undeniable.

“But all we can do is go for it,” argued Gorms. “Anyway, if Doug and I take out the first and second strongest guys, then you guys have a chance of winning one. More importantly, you guys should choose who you’re fighting already so you can come up with individual strategies.”

“That makes sense.”

“A frontal attack for us too, then?”

Everyone nodded in agreement.
Gorms’ reasoning was sound. After all, there was a bigger difference between the weakest three in each team than the strongest two. If they couldn’t minimise this difference as much as possible, then there wasn’t much chance for victory.

With that, it was decided.

General – Doug, Vice – Gorms

And then…

“Guess that makes me the Vanguard!” agreed Fii as she flexed her bicep. Well, whatever passed for her bicep at least.

Typically, the position of Vanguard was an important one, mainly used to secure an early win. With such an important role, Fii was suddenly really fired up.

“Yeah… See, if we put you in the middle, it’ll just screw up the atmosphere, so we can only put you at the front.”

The real reason was revealed.

“What the heck! What do you mean!”

“If you have any complaints, then show us what you’re made of in the match.”

“Muu! Of course I will!”

There was another reason why Fii was so enthused.
Her opponent was Luca.

“That guy made fun of Doug! If I don’t greet his head with my sword, I won’t be able to sleep properly!”

Despite what the rest of her team thought, Fii was actually seriously angry, for her at least.
Even with his position as her lackey, Doug was still Fii’s friend. As for whether her strange feelings of friendship for him were due to her upbringing as royalty or simply a quirk of her own, however, was unknown. Perhaps these were even the feelings one would have for their new pet dog.

“I don’t mind,” said a worried Doug.

“Well I do,” replied Fii.

“But Luca is still rather strong.”

“Don’t worry, Doug. Just focus on your own match. You’re fighting the strongest guy, right? I’ll try my best too,” she replied passionately.

Unfortunately, his worries went unnoticed.

And that was how their preparations were carried out.

The Vanguards were Fii and Luca. Fii of course was determined to devastate him with her victory.

The Seconds were Slad and Jerid.

The Mains were Remié and Kerio.

Despite Fii’s enthusiasm, Gorms was realistically hoping for a victory from either Slad or Remié.

In the Vice match were Gorms and Rizil.

Their glaring from earlier had already determined their moods.

Finally, the Generals match was between Doug and Percil.

 


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Chapter 83

It was a few days after the incident with the Eastern Dormitory.
The boys of the Northern Dormitory were sitting in the dining hall at their wits end.

They had found out later that this was something of a tradition between the two dorms. Five boys would be chosen from each dorm, and they would show off their swordsmanship before the various Division Leaders.
However, it was something decided between the actual knights themselves and was by no means public. For this reason, the Northern Dormitory boys hadn’t known about it.

As for how they were faring with this news―――

―――they could only be described as terrified.

“Why are they matching up the Northern and Eastern Dormitories? The difference is just so…”

“It’s like all of the talented people from our cohort are gathered there. Once you let five whole members up, it’s basically a dream team…”

They all grumbled complaints.

“To begin with, why the hell did they place six of the top twelve over there.”

“Doug used to be there too, so it’s really seven. To compare we only have Gorms…”

That they were a “collection of losers” had a grain of truth to it.
And as if that wasn’t all, some information gathering with their seniors had led to some unwelcome news.

“They said that it isn’t true that the losers are gathered in our dorm but… apparently the coordinator for the Eastern Dormitory… When he was a knight apprentice, he lost three times in a row to the Northern Dormitory and has quite a grudge about it. Since then, he’s been snatching up the best talents for his one.

“Not only that, but for some reason, he’s weirdly fired up this year and wants us to suffer three defeats in a row…”

“What the hell!”

“He’s barking up the wrong fucking tree!”

Shouting began all across the room.

“And what the hell is our own dorm coordinator doing…”

“You know him. ‘What’s important is how hard you try once you get in.’ That’s why he’s…”

“So it’s just our bad luck…?”

By now, the boys had just about realised their situation.

“I mean, I get that the training we’re putting in now is just as important as anything, but… does that really mean they have to throw all the talented guys over in the Eastern Dorm…?”

“Honestly, it’s really only Gorms and Doug that have any chance.”

“Apparently our success rate is like 10%…”

“I hear we weren’t even supposed to know about it until now, but those guys got told in advance.”

“I bet they’ve been training for this.”

No matter how much further it was discussed, things still seemed bleak.

“Aahh… We’re done for… I so don’t wanna fight…”

“What if I get called a shame to all knights in front of my Captain or something…”

“I’ll pass on that, thanks…”

And so, the boys all continued slouching in despair.

*

*

But in one corner of the room, Gorms spat,

“Keh! Running scared before even fighting? You’re all fucking pathetic.”

Remié gave a troubled smile and tried to soften the blow.

“But I can understand how they feel. Lots of them train at the same dojos and have been in the same competition as those guys, so they know just how much stronger they are.”

The apprentice knights were certainly acting pathetic, but they had plenty of reason to.
For the students who went to the same dojos as the elite members of the Eastern Dormitory, training at the dojo gave them first-hand experience on the talent and skill of these swordsmen. As for those who had seen them fight in competitions, pretty much all their opponents were defeated without any chance of victory.
The boys of the Northern Dormitory had trained reasonably hard these past few months, but it was by no means enough to catch up to those elites.

“That doesn’t fucking mean I have to accept whatever those Eastern Dorm bastards want to say to me. I’m going there to win.”

“Yeah. We’ll help however we can.”

The three of them agreed with Gorms. Although neither Slad, Gheith, nor Remié had enough strength to win, they were still good, considerate kids.

“Yeah, cheers! I’d really appreciate that. Still, the first thing we gotta sort out is the participants.”

“Guys guys guys! How about me!?”

“Hm, Gheith is injured, so he can’t compete. That leaves one spot.”

“Sorry I couldn’t help…”

“No worries. We’ll make it somehow!”

To be honest, they wanted to gather everyone in the dorm and pick the best candidates, but nobody else wanted to compete.
That’s why they currently only had the enthusiastic Gorms and Doug, as well as the cooperative Remié and Slad. Because of Gheith’s injury, they were short one member.

Despite how willing they were, it was impossible without 5 members.

“Hey hey! Gorms! What about mee!?”

“What about Zerius? If we ask him, he’ll definitely agree.”

“Well… the day of the match is also his grandma’s birthday, so apparently he’s going back home…”

“Choosing your family over trying to impress the knight captains? As always, that guy is manly as fuck…”

“Gorms! Me! Mee!”

“…”

“…”

With no other choice, Gorms and the others could no longer ignore the mysterious voice…
The voice that was coming from a certain carefree face belonging to what seemed to be a small boy whose finger was pointed at himself…
The boy who was standing next to a rather nervous looking Doug…

Urged on by the silence, a grave-looking Gorms rubbed his temples before addressing Heath.

“Heath… You do understand your grades in sparring, right?”

“Yeah! I haven’t lost the last ten matches! That’s almost as good as you, I think?”

“I’ve never seen a more convenient interpretation! Your latest results were 2 wins, 10 losses and 33 draws! You’ve lost five times more than you’ve won!”

The sparring in the Northern Dormitories was done on a round robin system, and only Fii had such ridiculous results.
Because of the weird tricks she often used and her erratic dodges and counterattacks, her opponents found it incredibly difficult to finish the match. This was seen plainly in her results.
Incidentally, Doug’s record was 44 wins and 1 draw (his opponent was Fii), while Gorms came second at 44 wins and 1 loss (his opponent was Doug).

Fii’s records certainly was impressive in a manner of speaking, but unfortunately, her tactics weren’t viable in proper matches. As for why…

“It doesn’t matter in our spars because there’s no referee, but in a proper match, you’d be given a warning for showing no intention of attacking,” Remié explained. “You lose after two warnings, so I think it’d be pretty difficult for you.”

How Fii’s fight usually went was she would initially fight with her opponent, but once she felt the pressure, she would focus entirely on evasion. It was hardly unexpected, but going head-on with boys was a bit much for her body.
She was an expert in toying with others though…

“It’s fine! I’m going to try and win this time!” she declared as she confidently thumped her chest.

“Just where the hell do you get your confidence from…” sighed Gorms.

Unfortunately, the fact was that they had few alternatives.

“Oi! We’ve got one spot left! Any of you gunna fight!?” he roared back at his dormmates.

“Aaah! My sword…! Where’s my sword gone!?”

“Uwahh, not again… I don’t wanna be beaten down in three seconds once again…”

“A light… I can see a light…”

Gorms was met only with despairing moans. Apparently a lot of them were traumatised from their experiences with the Eastern elites.
Faced with these pathetic boys, all Gorms could do was sigh in resignation.

“No choice…! Just do your best, Heath!”

“YAAAY!”

Fii jumped into the air in delight.


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Chapter 82

When Fii turned towards the voices, she found five unfamiliar boys standing there, overlooking the training grounds.

And out of the five of them, the mushroom-haired boy and the long-haired boy were very clearly making fools of them.
This caused a lot of the apprentice knights to grow noisy.

Looking at the mushroom boy, some of the apprentices exclaimed,

“That’s Rizil! Ever since he joined the Quinzy dojo, everyone’s called him a genius!”

“Last year he was top 4 in the Orstollian Youth Swordsmanship Competition!”

Upon looking at the long-haired boy, a different group of youths exclaimed,

“What, the one next to him was the runner up, Luca!”

“The son of the Coyil Viscounty famous for its knights…!?”

Upon checking the other newcomers, the conversation grew even more heated.

“That’s Kerio, the best student of my dojo!”

“And there’s Jerid… Glen too… All of them were in the top 8 in last year’s competition…”

“What are they even here for…?”

Furthermore, all of these boys had been winners during this year’s entrance exam.
In other words, out of the twelve winners, five of them were standing right there.

Having seen such disquiet amongst her fellow dormmates, Fii moved to Gorms’ side and voiced her thoughts.

“Hey, hey, what kind of competition is the ‘Orstollian Youth Swordsmanship Competition’?”

“A competition that pretty much all the boys of every dojo, as well as all the noble kids following the path of the sword, will take part in. It’s considered the way to definitively decide the best swordsman in the land.”

“Wooow!”

It sounded pretty amazing. Fii was even more curious now.

“Did you participate too, Gorms?”

“My dojo forbids competition. I wanted to try it, but I couldn’t.”

“I seee~”

Although pretty much every dojo participated, apparently not every one did without exception.
Fii supposed that each dojo had its own rules and traits.

“Did you, Doug?”

Doug shook his head.

“My master and all his disciples lived in the mountains.”

It seemed that despite being a noble, Doug grew up on a mountain.
But then, his master was a former noble, and Doug had grown up on his family estate prior to that, so he had already learnt the bearings of a noble.

“Carnegith-senpai was right,” sneered the long-haired Luca. “The Northern Dormitory really is a collection of losers.”

Next to him, Rizil gave an affected shrug before adding fuel to the flame.

“C’mon, don’t be so straight with them. I’m sure even these guys have a bit of pride.”

“You have a point.”

Luca combed his hair back foppishly.

Suddenly, Fii realised she had heard his name before.
It was that boy that the maids had said was both similar to Crow and completely different.

As for Fii’s conclusion―――

(They’re totally different!)

Despite their outrage at the boys’ words, the apprentice knights of the Northern Dormitory made no move, perhaps because of their fame. But Gorms stepped forward, arms crossed, and spoke.

“Sure are running your mouths.”

Perhaps the old Gorms would have been angry, but right now he simply looked at them with one eye closed, completely calm.

“So you’re Gorms from the Sarthik Dojo. They say that you’re strong, but you can only think that because none of you compete. You didn’t make it into our dorm. Isn’t that proof?” mocked the blonde.

“Wanna try us?” challenged the mushroom with a mocking smile.

Still, Gorms wasn’t provoked, and replied with a calm,

“One day.”

Rizil the mushroom scoffed while the long-haired Luca thrust his finger conceitedly at Doug.

“And Doug! I saw you just now! What the fuck was that supposed to be. It’s fine that you moved into the Northern Dorm because there was someone you had to fight, but you look awfully used to this hole of a dorm! You’re like a wolf without its claws and fangs! You’re like a dog!”

Fii grew angry.

“How dare you treat Doug like a dog! Take that back!”

(You’re one to talk…) thought every member of her dorm.

Luca narrowed his eyes.

“Who the hell are you…?”

“I’m Doug’s friend, Heath! I won’t let you make fun of Doug!”

The opinions of her dormmates aside, Fii really was rather mad.
Their relationship hadn’t begun as a pure one, but Fii still considered Doug as one of her more important friends.
And as for Luca, her opinion of him had gone from ‘totally different’, to ‘totally, totally, totally different’.

In response to Fii’s words, Luca smiled and dropped his stance a little.
An instant later and he was standing right in front of her.

(So fast…! Well, still slower than Doug though…!)

Fii’s eyes were wide as Luka held her chin and then drew her face near.

“It’s not a bad thing to have energy, but if you’re too energetic, this cute face of yours might just get hurt.”

“Stop…!”

Yet another instant later, Doug had broken in between them to shield her.

“Heh. Wanna go? The way you are now I’ll have no problem beating you,” Luca responded.

As the two boys glared at each other, a voice sounded from behind.

“Luca, Rizilm cut it out. We didn’t come here to pick a fight with them,” said a black-haired, bespectacled boy.

Yet again, the boys of the Northern Dormitory were thrown into a frenzy.

“That’s Percil! The three-time consecutive winner of the Youth Swordsmanship Competition!”

“Are you kidding me…!”

Fii glared at him.

“Then what did you come here for?”

Percil was unflinching however, and replied calmly,

“Allow me to apologise for the rudeness of my group. We are apprentice knights from the Eastern Dormitory. The reason we have come is to pass on a message.”

“A message…?”

All of the Northern apprentices seemed confused.
Luka scoffed at them and held out a piece of paper.

“We’re here to tell you lot about the Northern-Eastern Swordsmanship Competition!” he declared.

“The Northern-Eastern Swordsmanship Competition…?” echoed Fii.

Percil nodded.

“Indeed. Three weeks from now there will be mock battles between the members of the Northern and Eastern Dormitories. It will be conducted as a competition and each dorm will elect five members each. Please make sure to prepare.”

“Struggle as much as you like.”

“The knight captains of each division will be coming to watch. Try not to embarrass us.”

With that, the three boys left both the paper and the Northern Dormitory’s training grounds.


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Chapter 81 – Northern-Eastern Swordsmanship Competition

Fii frowned deeply at Doug.

“You’ve got guts, Doug!”

Standing five metres away, she pointed her wooden sword at him. Considering her short reach, it was far from her contact range. An attack from here was impossible.

The location was the outdoors apprentice knight training grounds, and the pair were currently in the midst of a mock battle.
Standing around them were other apprentice knights, exchanging fierce blows.
Well, not Fii and Doug though. The pair were not exchanging a thing.

“Doug!”

A troubled expression appeared on his face.

The reason that Fii had been angry all this time was not because he had hit her.
It was the opposite in fact; Doug had not attacked even once.

The moment that the irritated Fii took a step forward, Doug hopped another three steps back.
Fii’s frown further deepened.

“Damn it, Doug! I told you to take this seriously!”

Normally Fii preferred a docile Doug for the sake of protecting her secret. However, mock battles were a different story.
If Doug didn’t take this more seriously, it would only disadvantage them both.

But despite that…

When Fii tried to break the gap again, this time Doug leapt to the left.
The power in his legs were incredible, and the distance between them widened once again.

“URGHHHHHH!”

Although Fii stamped her feet in vexation, Doug simply maintained that troubled countenance as he watched her from far away.
His sword was still held loosely by his side, and he showed no signs of going on the offensive.
Despite still being close enough to attack, as he had demonstrated in his battle with Gorms.

The whole mock battle had been like this.
Ever since she had partnered with Doug, not once had Doug attacked her.
Not a single time.

The truth was that the gap between their abilities was immense.
Fii knew this too.
If Doug ever took this seriously, Fii would be defeated in the blink of an eye, without any chance to retaliate.

In fact, Fii and Doug fought in similar ways.
They were fighters who made use of their agility to avoid enemy strikes as they attacked.

But their ability was completely different.
Fii was certainly a natural jumper, but that was only for a girl. It was unlikely that her pure muscle power could match a boy’s.
The main advantage that her body held was its natural lightness.
Because of that lightness, not only could she perform feats of agility with her meagre power, it was also easier to change the direction of her movements, giving birth to an irregular and unpredictable fighting style.

On the other hand, despite Doug’s slenderness, he was still the height of the average apprentice knight. And as aspiring knights, these boys were far from short.
Also, despite being so slender, he was heavier than boys his height. His thin frame was incredibly muscular.
By making use of that sinewy, muscular body, Doug could perform the same feats of agility that Fii did. Not only that, but faster.
That disparity in speed made all the difference.
Just the speed of his first leaps were much faster than Fii’s, and using his muscles to run brought his final velocity to a level beyond compare.
Not only that, but the strikes backed by the momentum of his speed and mass were powerful enough to topple even Gorms.
Doug was simply a monster.

Doug was like an upgraded, ‘Holy shit, what is that guy!’ version of Fii.
It was impossible for her to win.

Still, in the five battles they had, the score was five draws.
And the reason for that was because Doug would never, ever attack her.
Doug who took down any other knight in five seconds, with the exception of Gorms who could hold on for a praiseworthy thirty.
Doug, legendary in the Northern Dormitory for his record of being undefeated and invincible, for some reason held back for Fii alone.

At first Fii had assumed that he was afraid of being scolded, so she ordered him to attack. Unfortunately she was met with the same result.
She told him before the match to attack her, but was met with the same result.
She told him during the match to attack her, but was met with the same result.
It was only during Doug’s matches with Fii that he would run about with that awkward expression on his face.

As mentioned previously, not only was Doug’s initial speed higher than hers, so was his final speed.
In other words, no matter what Fii did, it was impossible for her to catch him.

As a result, these matches between them would always end with a game of tag between a furious Fii chasing and ordering him to fight and Doug who was intent on running and avoiding her.

“DOUUUUGG! DOUUUUUUGGGG! WHYYYYYYYYYYY?!”

Today as well, Fii ended up red-faced and gasping for breath, having completely failed to catch him.
And although Doug looked at her apologetically, he made sure to stay out of the reach of her sword.

At that moment, an unfamiliar laugh appeared on the training ground.

“Hahahahahaha, is this really their training grounds? It looks more like a ballroom for amateur dancers! Are you guys really practising the sword?”

“I’d heard that the Northern Dormitory had bad standards, but this is even worse than I imagined. Heh.”

Everyone turned to the sudden laughter and found five unfamiliar boys standing there.
And for one of those boys, the first thought these boys of the Northern Dormitory had was,

(Mushroom…?)

A boy with an inflated brown mushroom for his hair and a blonde, long-haired youth were standing there openly mocking them.

 


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Chapter 80

Roy, King of Orstoll, entered the room, and Fiiru stood up to bow.

“Good evening, Your Majesty Roy. Lynette has prepared some tea. Please have some if it pleases you.”

“I see. Thank you,” he said as he removed his jacket and tossed it onto some nearby shelf.

Lynette’s brows furrowed as she ran over to straighten it out and place it on a hanger.
When she was done, she ran into the kitchen to bring dinner for the King and Queen.
Lynette returned with a cart with the food on it. As it was no more plentiful than your average dinner, it seemed a little scarce for a royal couple’s meal. Still, Roy paid it no mind and spoke to Fiiru instead.

“How has life in Orstoll been? If there has been anything unsatisfactory, please say so.”

“No, you have treated me very well, Your Majesty. There is nothing unsatisfactory.”

The tone that Roy used to speak to her sounded a little gentler than his normal speech, and he used this tone to apologise once again.

“I am terribly sorry for essentially confining you here.”

“I am very grateful for your help. I could not hope for anything more.”

But after that, Fiiru spoke to him a little hesitantly.

“Umm… but… if possible, I would like to meet with Fii-neesama.”

“Impossible.”

Roy’s rejection was immediate.

“Why…!?”

Roy replied calmly to her sad cry.

“There is no proof that your sister was uninvolved. As long as I cannot decisively rule out the possibility, I cannot allow you to come into contact with her.”

“My sister isn’t that kind of person!”

“Exactly. Fii-sama would never do such a thing!”

Even Lynette the maid spoke out above her station to refute Roy.
However, Roy did not chastise her and instead replied to the two with his ever calm voice.

“I have said it before. I will doubt everybody. With regards to this case, I will trust nobody except you, Lynette, and my most trustworthy retainers. Even your sister is no exception. For the sake of your safety, I intend to be as careful as humanly possible.”

“But…!”

When Fiiru continued to argue, Roy’s gaze began to grow sharp.
A dark aura seemed to seep out of him.

“I will say it once again. No matter how much you or Lynette may trust them, I have no absolutely no intention of doing the same. To begin with, I recall you leaving all facets of this investigation to me, did you not?”

Fiiru couldn’t help but tremble under his glare.

As Lynette watched this, she had a thought.

(I don’t think he realises at all…)

It was probably unintentional, the way this king glared at others.

(Even though he’s scaring Fiiru-sama like this…)

Fiiru-sama was blessed with knowledge and wisdom, but she was not particularly blessed with courage. Frankly, she leant towards timidity and cowardice.
It went without saying that a grown man’s glare was enough to frighten her.

Even so, it was within her nature to try her best to overcome her fear, but this man alone was too much for her to handle.
After all, he was the monarch of the great nation of Orstoll and the man known as the Ice King.
And upon considering her current position…

Fiiru had no path except to hang her head in dejection and apologise.

“My sincere apologies. I should be thanking you in gratitude for your help, not… I said too much…”

It was only at this point did Roy seem to have an inkling that he had scared her.
The sternness on his expression was replaced by the mask of calm, and he replied to her in a gentler voice than usual.

“No, I should be apologising for speaking so severely. But as I’ve said, I want to limit contact as much as possible to those who aren’t absolutely trustworthy. Please bear with it for now.”

“Yes…”

After gazing at her crestfallen expression, Roy spoke to her seriously.

“Princess Fiiru. I promised Prince Tomáš that I would absolutely protect you. And we are by no means in a situation where we can let our guards down. Even so, I still want to make your time in this country as pleasant as possible.”

With that, Roy took a sip of Lynette’s tea before leaving his chair.

“Apologies, but I still have work left over so I will be heading to the study. I’m still busy, you see.”

“Yes. Thank you very much for coming tonight.”

Fiiru once again bowed to him.

“Um, what will Your Majesty be eating for dinner…?”

“Just this will do.”

Roy responded to Lynette as he took just one dish from the cart. After that, he holed himself in the study as usual.

Lynette was unable to tell Fiiru about how Fii was being treated.
It was because the only thing it would achieve right now would be piling on another worry.


TL Note: Light spoiler below

“With regards to this case, I will trust nobody except you, Lynette, and my most trustworthy retainers. Even your sister is no exception.”

Rather ironically, Heath is one of said retainers…


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Chapter 79 – Roy and Fiiru

In the Orstollian royal palace stood a room for the royal husband and wife.

Because there was only one entrance and exit and many smaller partitioned rooms lay inside it, the set-up was like a house within the castle.

In one of those smaller rooms sat a long table, large enough to sit twenty people, but in contrast there were only two chairs.

At one end of the table sat a girl with her head down, polishing something in her hands.

It was a small and plain, white porcelain cup. The cup was well-made, drawing smooth and beautiful contours in her hand.
Holding it carefully in her hands, she was using a clean white cloth to carefully polish away any possible blemishes.

“Fiiru-sama, High Majesty Roy will be here soon.”

The girl raised her head at Lynette’s words.
Her lovely golden hair shifted as she did, and her beautiful blue eyes gazed the maid’s way.

So beautiful was the girl that even Lynette, who had grown up with her, found herself sighing.
Her eyes, her nose, her mouth… Everything part that composed her face was delicate and beautifully arranged. But instead of the cold beauty one would expect from a doll, her eyes turned down in a way that exuded a kind and gentle impression.
Although she was beautiful enough to outshine even other princesses famed for their beauty, she shared the child-like atmosphere that her older sister had, which attracted men all the more.
It was little wonder that the royalty in Déman’s vicinity had been obsessed with her.

Fiiru met Lynette’s gaze and gave a nod.

“I know. Lynette, could you pour some tea for His Majesty and I?”

“Yes. In the same cup as always?”

“Yes, please.”

Fiiru’s voice was a little frail, but also clear and gentle.
Upon hearing Fiiru’s request, Lynette carefully poured tea into the polished cup.

Fiiru simply watched the tea pour in.
Normally you would heat the tea cup in advance, but because of Fiiru’s unwillingness to part with it, Lynette had chosen tea that was still delicious when lukewarm.
Light-brown tea layered over the white of the porcelain.

After that, Lynette moved to the other side of the table and placed a warmed cup down in front of the King’s seat, this time pouring hot tea.

“Thank you, Lynette,” thanked Fiiru with a smile.

It wasn’t long before they heard footsteps coming down the hall.
Brisk footsteps that seemed hurried as usual.

The knight from the 1st Division who had been stationed in front of the door now received a signal from another knight outside. With that, he opened the door.

“Sorry for keeping you waiting.”

Beyond the door came an apology, and a man with it.
A handsome black-haired man, with blue-grey eyes and a cleverness to his face.
It was Roy, the king of this nation.

 


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Fiiru-sama’s New Years Special Performance

Fiiru was in the Déman palace gardens with a number of people.

They were not maids; instead, there were people who wished to consult her for advice, people who had brought gifts for her, people who had come to learn from her sublimity as well as a host of other reasons. There were sons of aristocratic families, princes from neighbouring nations, and on top of it all, even a priest was present.
In the eyes of some of these princes, perhaps this garden itself was not very large, but with Fiiru there, the very scenery seemed to change.
Even these dull flowers would seem to bloom brightly in red and gold. Even the banally aligned trees seemed to all be perfectly positioned.
And standing there amongst all this was Fiiru. Fiiru, whose clean beauty brought to mind an angel, completed the painting that was this garden.

Dressed as beautifully as ever, Fiiru looked up.
Her eyes, like sparkling sapphires, softly beheld the skies.
And as she did, long lashes narrowed around those gems as she gave a meaningful look.

“Look! Fiiru-sama is looking up at the sky.”

“Heavens… She’s breathtaking…”

“She must be pondering some issue too profound for us to understand.”

Amidst all the clamouring, Fiiru was thinking to herself.

(What nice weather…)

Today the wind was cool, and the sunlight was gentle and warm.

It was so comfortable that her eyes had begun to droop. For a while, she considered how pleasant it would be to simply have an afternoon nap on the spot.
But there were guests here today, and thus, it would not be permissible to do so. To start with, she had never had an afternoon nap in her life, much to her disappointment.

It was truly a nice day, however. Just spacing out in the garden like this was more than pleasant enough.
Even these guests who would normally approach her so incessantly were now happy to leave her alone to enjoy herself. Because of that, Fiiru was able to bask the afternoon sunlight as she pleased.

As she was doing so, she noticed a butterfly flutter past.

(Woww, it’s a butterflyy…)

Still in a daze, she reached out without thinking too much.

Suddenly, one of the noblemen shouted. In shock, Fiiru froze in place.

“Wha… What a mysterious pose Fiiru-sama is taking!”

“Ah-! That pose is…!”

“Do you know of it, Father Priest!?”

The priest gave the prince a serious look.

“I am certain. That pose is the pose of prayer towards God, passed down in the ancient texts of the Prase Faith. It is said that upon the completion of this prayer, the surroundings will be purified and fortune will befall all.”

“Heavens! So Fiiru-sama was actually attempting such a thing!”

“No wonder they call her the Miko of Soothing!”

“So when she gazed into the sky, she was actually thinking of the world in preparation for her prayer.”

(EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHH!?)

screamed the girl in her mind.

“Then tell me, Priest. You said ‘upon completion’ did you not? How long will this prayer take to complete?”

“The prayer will succeed if she maintains that position without moving for eight minutes.”

“I see! In other words, Fiiru-sama is presently trying to reach that mark.”

(I-, I can’t moveeee…!)

After that conversation, it was impossible for her to move now.
The best way to describe her current pose was a strange one where only her left leg was touching the ground. The right one was lifted forward at roughly a thirty degree angle, and her two arms were stretched out before her.

(I, I have to stay like this for eight minutes…? T-, That’s impossibleee…)

To be very frank, it was a very difficult pose to hold.

Not only that, but Fiiru had been brought up like a princess.
Having done almost no exercise, she had little strength. Very little strength. Very, very little strength.

Before even thirty seconds was up, her left leg was already trembling and the blood had left her face.

(Why… Why did it turn out like this…)

She had just been enjoying the sun when she wanted to chase after a butterfly. How had that managed to turn into publicly challenging her to keep this strange pose for eight minutes?
Fiiru’s eyes started to water a little.

She held out for about a minute.

(I, I’m done…)

By now, her entire body was trembling.
But just before she collapsed…

Loud clatters and crashes could be heard from afar.

In the background, they could hear the sounds of shouting maids.

“Fii-sama has suddenly gone berserk!”

“The flowerpots and vases are…!”

“A-, Again!? The other day I was wondering why she was so quiet when she suddenly broke into a rampage. Why is she doing this again…!”

Even the men who had been staring at Fiiru’s “praying” began looking the other way now.

“W-What on earth is going on!”

“Apparently some woman called Fii is causing a fuss.”

“That completely dissimilar sister of Fiiru-sama!?”

“Kuh! We cannot allow this to affect Fiiru-sama’s praying! I shall go catch her!”

“I will come as well!”

“I won’t let you steal a march on me!”

“I will come too!”

With that, all the men began running in the direction of the disturbance. The maids also followed behind them.

After dazedly watching them depart, Fiiru was finally able to stand normally.
Her eyes were looking towards the garden bushes where someone’s shadow waved to her.

It only took an instant to recognise her. It was her older sister, Fii-neesama.
She had probably spotted what happened and caused a fuss as a distraction.

(Thank you, Neesamaa…)

Fiiru shed tears of gratitude.
With a warm smile on her face, she waved back at her gentle older sister.

After that, Princess Fii continued her game of tag in the castle, and fifteen minutes later everyone returned to Fiiru completely out of breath. Fii-neesama had succeeded in her escape.

Thus concluded another day in the life of the two sisters.


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Chapter 78

Fii left the boys behind and walked into the sauna for women.

Having taken off her jacket already, she was now dressed in a black top made from weaved fabric and long white pants.
The way she looked now was somewhere between a girlish boy and a boyish girl.
And she was obviously a boyish girl to the people around her, since she had now entered the women’s sauna. Not a single person suspected her.

And of course, she truly was a boyishly-dressed girl.
All she did was head in through the door she was naturally supposed to use.

She opened the door like natural, and she headed inside like natural.
When she came through the door, there was a place to pay her fee and then a dressing room connected to it.

The moment she step foot in this room, Fii tweaked her hair a little.
She quickly pulled down some sparse hair on the side of her head. It was just long enough to reach her neck, and she covered her white cheeks with it after bringing it to the front.
Suddenly her image seemed to change.
The remaining bits of boyishness vanished, and her face seemed even more girly now.

In fact, her hair actually had two layers.
Normally you would only see the layer cut to cheek length that gave her a boyish impression. But besides that, she had some sparse, but long hair, that reached as far as her neck.
It was usually kept brushed back to hide, and Fii normally kept this hair tied with a string.
But by untying it and having it fall to her sides of her face, Fii had a simple way of changing her image.
It was at the advice of Conrad-san that she had gotten her hair cut this way.

And thus, her messy boy’s hair could be turned into a girl’s by just a little combing with her fingers.

Even the woman at the fee booth showed no signs of suspicion and simply handed over a towel after receiving the money.

There was nobody who questioned her in the changing room either.
And naturally so. Why would anybody blame a girl for using the women’s sauna.

Taking off her clothes, Fii gave herself a quick rinse to get rid of the sweat from her training before enjoying the sauna to the fullest.
Here, she could relax without worrying about the eyes of others. It was hot, and she was sweating everywhere, but it was bliss.

After leisurely enjoying the sauna, she gave herself one last rinse before tidying her hair and leaving…

The apprentice knight boys were already waiting outside.
Since their hair was wet, they must have entered too. She had really enjoyed herself, so perhaps she had taken a bit too long.
Fii felt a little apologetic towards them.

The boys had been glancing at the women’s sauna door the whole time. Averting their eyes, and yet paying close attention.
Their cheeks were a little red.

“I’m backk~”

Fii quickly headed over to them.

When they saw how Fii walked out of there like it was nothing, all of their eyes went wide. Doug was the only one who knew the circumstances, but Fii had made sure to silence him with her eyes.
Doug nodded up and down, of course.

The moment she took her jacket back, the boys began crying out in unrest.

“D-, Did you really go inside…!?”

“To the women’s sauna…!”

“Yeah,” she confirmed, “I took my time and really enjoyed it. Sorry for taking so long though.”

Enjoyed…

The moment they heard this word, all the boys gulped as they blushed redder.
Fii only meant that she had enjoyed the heat and sweating though; it certainly was different from the boy’s expectations.

For a while, the boys exchanged glances, and the silence continued until one boy couldn’t hold on any longer.

“So… how was it…? Heath…! The… The women’s sauna…!”

Fii went thought silently for a moment, and finally realised why they were asking that.
Holding her chin in her fingers, she gave a terribly meaningful smile before flashing them a silent grin.

In that moment, the boys realised it.
That today, their comrade Heath, had reached a summit that none of them had ever seen.

Of course, what really happened was that she simply went into the sauna. Nothing particularly exciting had happened at all.
Fii had no interest in what the boys probably wanted to see, so she had simply enjoyed the sauna.

But, in the minds of these young boys, Fii was a man who had stepped foot into a world none of them knew.
Only Doug, who knew the circumstances, looked away with a blushing, yet astounded face, but it didn’t take long before Fii silenced him with yet another glance.

The boys idealised and were fascinated by the women’s sauna. So when Fii had stepped into it and even returned without harm, those feelings transformed into respect, or perhaps fear towards her.

“Well then, shall we head back?”

she spoke refreshingly. Her back showered by the boys’ gazes of admiration, Fii walked back comfortably to the castle having enjoyed her evening at the sauna.

*妹*

*妹*

The next day, Fii received over 2000 points from the members who went to the sauna. Because of that, she shot up to 3rd place in one go.
It was still a long way from 1st place Zerius, who was already at 4000 points, but her incredible speed of ascension had caused her to be the talk of the dorm.

However, every one of those entries had their explanation left blank. And no matter who asked, none of those boys would ever explain the reason.

Because of this, the rumour that Heath had definitely done something dirty again began to spread amongst the apprentice knights.


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Chapter 77

In the end, Fii ended up at the sauna without any ideas.

The problem hadn’t changed from an hour ago.
At this rate, she would have to enter the sauna with everyone else.
Not only that, but Doug was reaching the limits of his composure.

“What’s wrong, Doug? You’re all fidgety. Haha, are you looking forward to the sauna that much?” asked a carefree Slad.

“M-… Mn…” nodded Doug with a pale face.

It was fine since everyone here was dull, but someone sharp like Conrad-san would have seen through it with but a glance.

At any rate, this crowd of relaxed boys could finally see the sauna and the smoke rising from its chimney.

It was a large-ish wooden building, and quite a number of guests were coming and going.
There were two entrances and signs above them labelled them as men’s and women’s. Apparently they were separated by sex, but that didn’t help Fii at all right now.

Before long, they arrived in front of the sauna.

“Phew~ We’re finally here.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

The boys all wore expectant and relaxed expressions.
Fii had to come up with some reason to avoid entering the sauna.
Sickness? No, that would cause trouble in the future.
But suddenly remembering some errand would be a little too unnatural…

At that moment, before everyone’s eyes, a young boy and his mother walked into the women’s sauna.
One of the apprentice knights came up with a good joke and turned to Fii.

“Isn’t that great, Heath. You can still go into the women’s sauna. Guys under eleven are allowed in!”

Fii’s age was about the same as his.
In other words, if Fii lied about her age, she could still enter without a problem. That was the idea.
And of course, he was also teasing her because of her girly face.

“Oi, oi, peeping is no good, ain’t it.”

“Whoa, whoa, he’d just be entering from the front. That’s not peeking. You could even call it manly to stroll in boldly for a look at the women!” declared the boy who had first teased Fii.

But despite his joking tone, Fii pretended to think seriously for a moment before looking at him in the eyes and answering,

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll go have a look.”

“Eh…?”

Time stopped for the apprentice boys.
Gorms, Slad, everyone. They all stared at Fii’s face as though they couldn’t believe their ears.

Leaving the frozen boys aside, Fii kept her serious expression as she took off her apprentice knight’s jacket and handed it to her friends.

“If I wear my jacket in, even I’ll get busted, so take care of it for me. Well then, I’m going in.”

With that, Fii strode briskly towards the door to the women’s sauna.

“O-, Oi…!”

Gorms hurriedly tried to stop her, but Fii turned around with a serious expression and held a finger to her lips.

Don’t cause a fuss. They’ll find out.

The boys all heard Heath’s voice.

An apprentice knight stormed into the women’s sauna. The public would find that out.
Everyone understood the gravity of the situation.

The women’s sauna.
There was no boy who wasn’t fascinated by its allure, but at the same time, it was a sacred and dangerous land that they could never step foot into.
And right now, their comrade Heath, was clearly walking towards it.
Considering the backlash, causing a fuss would be bad. Really, really bad.
But wouldn’t failing to stop Heath be even worse…?

While the boys were sewn to the ground by their confusion, Heath began walking again.
Towards the door to the women’s sauna.

With brisk, natural steps, as though Heath was doing nothing wrong at all, Heath casually opened the door, and then simply walked right in. Heath disappeared from their sight.
Into the women’s sauna…

With the exception of one person, everyone had broken out into a cold sweat at what just happened, their eyes wide open and still dumbfounded by the scene.
Their hearts seemed to pound furiously in their chests…
Pounding both from the shock of what just happened and the fear of the uproar that was to come…

But strangely, they were met with silence.

A boy, who was an apprentice knight of all things, just walked into the women’s sauna. It should have been a massive scandal that shook the world.
But even after Heath disappeared into the sauna, nothing had happened. Nothing had happened at all.

And as though truly nothing had happened, time seemed to flow again as the boys returned to the calm evening street.

“H-, He went…?”

“That guy… seriously went…”

“And he even went so casually…”

They boys felt like they had seen some illusion.
But it was reality. Heath had gone into the women’s sauna.
Boldly, from the front… and so casually…

And the fact that nothing at all had happened meant that Heath’s infiltration had succeeded…

Since the passer-bys began looking at them suspiciously, the boys flusteredly removed their gazes from the door to the women’s sauna.
A group of proud knights had very nearly been treated like perverts.

Without even heading to the men’s sauna, they just stood there as their eyes wandered randomly and fidgeted about.

They were searching all around them.
Searching for the figure of that small apprentice knight boy.

And then, they came to a conclusion.
That small boy was nowhere to be seen.

In other words, what had happened just now truly was reality…


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